Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ladies Nights at Las Campanas!

This is my first entry into the Belles of Las Campanas blog.  Let me begin with a short introduction.  I'm Jackie Faherty, a Hubble postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science.  I work in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism with some pretty amazing people.  As a fellow at Carnegie, we have access to the best observatory in the entire world (I am biased):  Las Campanas.  I'm currently on a three night observing run.  The past two nights I've been on the 6.5m Baade telescope using near infrared instruments.  Last night I was using an imager called FourStar to measure distances to our nearest, coolest brown dwarf neighbors.  When I say cool, I mean COLD.  Check out the press release video we made for the coldest of all of them .   Tonight I'm using the FIRE spectrograph to look at young brown dwarfs that are fantastic analogs to giant exoplanets that we are directly imaging.  We should have a press release out soon on these guys as I'm just finishing up a paper on how awesome they are.

The very first female telescope operator at Las Campanas Observatory.
The first female telescope operator at LCO.
Welcome Angelica Leon!
It is no surprise that often times you can be the only female on top of this crazy science mountain. I've been the sole representative of my gender many times up here.  But not this time!!!  There are lots of women doing science right now.  Including our very first female operator.  Meet Angelica Leon.  She's currently in training but will be taking over as one of the vital telescope operators we are matched with.  Welcome!!!

A stacked control room of women at the Clay telescope. Front: Alycia
Weinberger, Katie Morzinski.  Back: Amanda Bosh, Jackie Faherty

Also present are my colleagues Alycia Weinberger and Jessica Donaldson from DTM as well as Katie Morzinski from Arizona and Amanda Bosh from MIT.  They are (or will be) blogging for the Belles.  It's basically ladies nights.

BTW the blog gets its name as a play on the fact that the rocks up here at Las Campanas are known to ring like Bells.  Check out this video we made where Alycia plays a little song.  Note the GORGEOUS light as we took this as we walked out from dinner when the Sun was just setting in front of us.

The Real Bells

We thought hard about the title for this blog before going for the pun "Las Campanas Belles." But the pun isn't necessarily obvious, I realize. Here is the audio pun in the form of a movie that I made this evening, just before dinner:
Those rocks are where Las Campanas, i.e. The Bells, gets its name. They're so neat that I spent an afternoon (in Chilean summer, when there was time for such things), banging every rock I saw along a walk to try to find one to take home. No luck, though the staff told me that they're common up here. I'll let Jackie Faherty, another Belle up here this week, post her narrated video later.

My schedule this week is not including long walks: sleep, yoga, shower, eat, watch sunset, observe, repeat. And today I didn't even fit in the yoga or a walk amidst the rocks. We had a great, long night last night with 12 hours of work.

Now we have three Carnegie women on the mountain! Jackie Faherty, a Hubble Fellow at my department (DTM) is on the Magellan Baade Telescope looking at brown dwarfs. I'm on the Magellan Clay Telescope looking at young stars and circumstellar disks, and Jessica Donaldson, a postdoc at DTM arrived today. She'll be observing for our program on the duPont Telescope, and I'll have to let her write her own entry about her first trip to Las Campanas.

Cross-blog from MagAO

I posted last night on the MagAO blog. Here's the entry: Don't Panic/

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Fellow Woman Astronomy Blogger

I came across this great post by Nicole Estefania Cabrera Salazar, a National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellow in Astronomy at Georgia State University. She's from Chile, and a first-generation college student, and tweets @jazztronomy

Her post is part of a series at The Conversation called "Scientists as work", and in her post she talks about what it's like to be an astronomer these days. She does a great job discussing the process of observing -- how we get time on telescopes, what it's like to observe, and what data comes out of observing -- and highlights what *else* scientists do when not at work. Give it a read!

Scientists at work: most days in the life of an astronomer aren’t spent at telescopes

Friday, May 1, 2015

Collaboration of an amateur to the Professional Astronomy

Hello everyone, my name is Consuelo González-Ávila (a.k.a. Pilar Ávila) and, as many amateur astronomers around the world, I work collaborating to professional astronomers...How did I get here?

After finishing my university formation in Music Education (in 2007) I took some courses of Mathematics and Physics. Between 2010 and 2012 I was part of the E-ELT Site Testing team, working at some of the chilean candidate sites for the European Extremely Large Telescope, at ESO's Paranal Observatory. This work consisted in travelling to every mountain to install and operate instrumentation in order to get data related to atmospheric turbulence, especially in the nights around full Moon (I got the nickname "wolf-woman" there).

Cerro Armazones, the site of the European Extremely Large Telescope, June 2011.

Mainly, I worked at Cerro Armazones. This site was chosen for the E-ELT and I still treasure meaningful memories, not only about the job and this mountain, but also as a personal experience.

Working with a Lunar Scintillometer during an experiment at ESO's Paranal Observatory. 
In the background, the Unit Telescope 3 a.k.a. "Melipal" (Southern Cross in Mapudungun). 

Before finishing my work at Paranal, on November 2012, I started to work for the Carnegie Supernova Project and this was my entrance to Las Campanas Observatory. The project, directed by Dr. Mark Phillips, consists in getting optical and near-infrared observations of 100-150 Type Ia supernovae located in the smooth Hubble flow. Today, I am working as an observer at the Henrietta Swope Telescope taking optical imaging, and also I collaborated during a period with the data reduction and the background subtractions on some supernovae.

Henrietta Swope Telescope in foreground and Irénée du Pont Telescope in background 
at Las Campanas Observatory

Nowadays I count 2 years and 5 months working in this project completing more than 260 observing nights (most of them at Swope Telescope and a few at du Pont Telescope). So, I will share here some anecdotes and relevant facts about observing from an historical telescope as Swope.

1-m Swope Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory, during an observing
night for the Carnegie Supernova Project.

I want to thank to the astronomer Johanna Teske for inviting me to contribute to this blog.

Stay tuned, cheers!